Welcome to the wilderness.
A time when circumstances seem to be opposed to our “life plan.” A time when God feels distant or silent. A time when things feel like they are coming down around us.
As the hysteria associated with this virus grips our nation we’re all likely going through the wilderness as a people, not just as individuals on our walk. I’ve spent a great deal of time in my spiritual wilderness and thought it might be instructive to share what I’ve learned through countless visits.
What Is The Wilderness?
Most Christians might be familiar with the story of Moses and the Israelites. They are freed from slavery and take a 40-year journey through the wilderness. That’s the most common wilderness reference in church. While that might be the easiest analogy, the reality is that most of the characters (the ones we want to emulate) in the Bible had to face a wilderness. Whether it’s Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, Daniel, even the prophets cried out during the wilderness periods, they all culminated with Jesus. Jesus receives encouragement from His Heavenly Father and then immediately goes out to the wilderness. From Jesus’ experience, we know a few things about the wilderness.
The Wilderness Is God’s Refinement Tool
Throughout scripture we see God using the wilderness as a testing ground for His people. Before I experienced a true wilderness experience I read the story of Abraham and Isaac as one where God seems to be going too far. God seems very opposed to child sacrifice and yet he’s asking the very thing He detests, what’s going on? During my wilderness period, I came to understand what’s going on more clearly.
Abraham had been waiting for God’s promise for almost a lifetime. He desires this promise so much that he takes matters into his own hands. Even after the Ishmael incident, God blesses him with Isaac. In some ways, his life was tied up in Isaac.
Can you imagine anything you’ve dreamed of and hoped for any length of time? How much weight and attention does it have? God wasn’t asking Abraham to sacrifice his child, he was asking if he’d be willing to place his hopes and dreams on the altar and trust God with them.
The Refining Process
The Bible brings us a great analogy regarding the refinement of precious metals. Refinement goes through a pretty lengthy process and it relates to our Christian walk very well.
When precious metals like gold or silver are found they are not found lying around in a cave. First, the metal has to be found. These metals are often deposited and mixed within the rocks themselves. In order to get something to actually refine, the metal has to be broken down and apart.
When I first discovered a relationship with Jesus, He started His refinement process. There were things in my life that just broke off of me.
Once the metal has been broken down, it’s still very “mixed” and needs to be refined by fire. The metal is placed into a crucible and is heated up. It’s worth pointing out that the crucible is a cup that cannot be burned. It allows the metal to heat up but protects it from be burned by the fire.
Removing The Impurities
As the crucible heats up the impurities rise to the top. When heat is applied impurities are easier to see and easier to remove. A skilled metal smith will carefully remove the dross (the impurities).
Once the impurities have been removed, the metalsmith allows the metal to cool off and inspects it. Often what they are looking for is their own reflection. If their reflection cannot be seen clearly, the metal goes back into the crucible to be heated again so that more impurities can be removed.
Success Is The World’s Fire
When Saul became king he was anointed by God’s prophet. He was the kind of king that Israel expected. Everyone seemed to be following him on social media. Saul was tall and handsome. He didn’t do anything to earn his crown, he didn’t have to win it. He seemed humble and God put His spirit on Saul to empower him to be a good king in the beginning. However, success is a has a way of bringing the worst out of people.
Saul’s mistake was moving without God. Saul was facing a literal and spiritual battle. He did not want to wait on Samuel and decided to take things into his own hands. In doing so he lost the very thing he was trying to hold on to, his kingdom.
When we act on our own will we experience the flame without the protection of a crucible. The flame will certain cause the impurities to be more visible but instead of being easily removed by a skilled craftsman they become more embedded.
Preparation Of A King
Can you imagine if a prophet came to you and told you, you were going to be the next great leader of the nation? If you’re like me, you’d be a little scared but also very excited. Ready to get on with God’s mission. We all likely know the story of David, but I think we often fail to acknowledge his wilderness time. Let’s take a quick look.
- Youngest son, so unimportant that he’s not even invited to family meetings involving a prophet
- Tends the dirty animals and left to fight off wild animals (does his father even care?)
- Annointed king, pressed in to war service
- Has to escape murder from current king, twice
- Has his wife given to another man
- Has to run for his life and live in caves (multiple times)
- Best friend dies in battle
- Loses a child
- Son betrays him
If you want a story like David’s, a story that says, “and [your name] was a person after God’s own heart,” then be ready for the wilderness.
The Promise Land Is On The Other Side
The essence of the story of the Old Testament is that Israel, God’s chosen people, were either going into or coming out of a wilderness. God’s promised land was only given to them after a 40-year journey in circles in the wilderness. However, the Israelites did get to the promised land! During the Old Testament failures, there was another promise that gave them hope. The Messiah! This is our hope, we have Jesus. We can go through the fire and be protected because He is our crucible.
Allow this time to remove your impurities and focus on Him! This time is one of preparation for something greater. We are God’s sons and daughters and therefore Kings and Queens. If we’re to be good Kings and Queens then we’ll need to prepare like one.